Lady Booby alias "Belle" (Ann-Margret), the lively wife of the fat landed squire Sir Thomas Booby (Peter Bull), has a lusty eye on the attractive, intelligent villager Joseph Andrews (Peter Firth), a Latin pupil and protégé of Parson Adams (Sir Michael Hordern), and makes him their footman. Joseph's heart belongs to a country girl, foundling Fanny Goodwill (Natalie Ogle), but his masters take him on a fashionable trip to Bath, where the spoiled society comes mainly to see and be seen, yet Sir Thomas really seeks relief for his sick foot, but drowns in the famous Roman baths. When the all but grieving lady finds Joseph's Christian virtue and true love resist her lusting passes just as well as the many ladies who fancy her footman, she fires the boy. On his way back on foot, he falls prey to highwaymen who rob him of everything, even the clothes on his back. He's found and nursed by an innkeeper's maid, which stirs lusts there, again besides his honorable conduct, but is found by the good Parson. Meanwhile, the lady consents to her cousin marrying below his station when learning the fiancée is Joseph's sister, Pamela (Karen Dotrice). The Parson barely escapes a wicked gentleman's totally unjust, all but gentle justice after being accused of the attempted rape committed by a squire he actually prevented, and comes to learn ever more about a relevant child-theft by Gypsies, but meanwhile, he, Joseph, and Fanny, fall prey again to the rapist's utter debauchery.